(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Olaf Stapledon, a professor with a doctorate in philosophy, published two earlier novels, Last and First Men (1930) and Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest (1935). These books introduced the themes most fully explored in Star Maker, which many critics consider to be his strongest work. Part philosophical reflection, part prose-poem, part theological adventure, and only incidentally space travel fiction, Star Maker is difficult reading, though abundantly rewarding. Not only are 100 billion years of Earth time encompassed, but a unique feat is attempted—the description of a deity. Presented as fiction, the Star Maker is the conceptual product of a scholar’s study of world religions.

Although Stapledon has been accused of concocting an interplanetary romance as a distraction from the catastrophe looming over Europe in 1937, he actually was placing human affairs provocatively in a cosmic perspective, with conclusions foreshadowing the postwar philosophic movement of existentialism. He suggested that even though the Creator of the universe, the Star Maker, might well be indifferent to human striving, the relationships between men and women—particularly humans united in community—had their own validity.

Countless science-fiction writers, including Philip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Ursula Le Guin, and Isaac Asimov, are indebted to Stapledon. Brian Aldiss has called him the ultimate science-fiction...

(The entire section is 495 words.)